Around three quarters of the earth's surface is covered in water, comprised of:
- Approx. 84% seas and oceans
- Approx. 15% non-transportable groundwater at a level too low for access
- Approx. 1% of the water is to be found in the combined areas of polar ice, rivers, the groundwater and the atmosphere
Only around 0.03% of all water is immediately available to us as fresh i.e. drinking water. Water is one of the most precious resources we possess, and yet it is under severe threat.
Water shortages in many countries
The worldwide consumption of water has quadrupled over the last 50 years. Almost half a billion people live in countries where water is already in short supply. By the year 2050 at least one quarter of the world's population will have to live with chronic or recurrent water shortages. There are many reasons for this. For example, alongside the fact that the world population is increasing constantly, the spread of steppe-like regions and the growth of the large deserts represent a risk factor. But the largest problem is the growing pollution of the seas, oceans, rivers and the groundwater, and the consequent effects of climate change.
We are all in the same boat
Not only those countries which count as the driest regions in the world need to use their water economically. The highly developed countries in North America, Europe and the Far East, some of which have more than enough water, also need to use their water sensibly. For the final analysis, it is these countries which use the most water. It is here that you will find the most dishwashers, car washes and industries which depend on water. It is here that people shower and take baths most often, and here that they give the least thought to water as public property.
How can we save water?
Aside from private household water consumption for washing, cleaning, showering and watering our gardens, industry is also a major user and abuser of water e.g. the paper, car, food and chemical industries are some of the biggest users and polluters of water.
Government is generally needed to control water consumption with restrictions on usage and incentives for recovery and treatment of waste and recycling. One of the ways governments do this is by introducing high charges for water consumption and incentivising rebates.
Two classic ways of saving water: water-saving toilet flushes and devices to limit the flow of water in wash-basins and showers. Most people prefer to use rainwater to water their gardens simply because it is cheaper. Also please remember to only run the washing machine or dishwasher with full loads and even small actions such as turning off the tap when cleaning your teeth or shaving. See your local water authority website for tips and services. But that is not all.
Saving water especially means treating it with respect and not polluting it. Toilets and drains should never be used as trashcans for oils, fats, chemicals, medicines and cigarette ends. Cleaning agents and detergents should be used economically and pesticides only when absolutely necessary. Only if we do this we can play an active part in treating water, one of our most precious treasures, with the respect it deserves.